As Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords retires to focus on her recovery (she was shot in the head in mass shooting/murder spree early last year), a federal prison system psychologist has opined that the shooter, Jared Loughner, remains “incompetent to stand trial.” I’m skeptical, but admittedly, I haven’t had a first-hand opportunity to examine him. The psychologist did say that Loughner’s mental status is improving, so he’ll probably be kept in the federal prison mental health facility in Missouri for at least another four months and continue to receive anti-psychotic medication involuntarily. In her resignation statement, Giffords said that she would return to Congress when she recovers more fully. While I certainly hope she recovers to that degree, if you want me to call it like I see it for you, I can’t honestly say that I expect it to happen. In general, there’s sort of a “plateau” in recoveries from brain injuries like hers, and the plateau generally happens at a level of functioning that’s somewhat below pre-injury functioning. Her recovery to date has been nothing short of miraculous, though, so anything’s possible.
The “Barefoot Bandit” has been sentenced in federal court, but as I feared, he’s being allowed to serve his federal prison term concurrently with his state prison term (already in progress), which means he’s essentially getting a pass for his federal crimes. As I wrote last week, that’s disgraceful. This creep should be in his 40’s (at least) before we have to look over our shoulders for him on the streets again. As it stands now though, he’ll be back among us in about seven years, possibly less, and I predict that he’ll start victimizing innocent people again within weeks of his release. While the Bandit’s federal judge just made us less safe, I was happy to learn this week that another federal judge — this one right here in Kansas — has actually made us safer. Remember the guy I told you about last week who injured 11 people in a mass shooting here in Lawrence, Kansas several years ago and was allowed to serve his sentences for all 11 aggravated assaults concurrently, resulting in another disgracefully-short sentence? Well, a federal prosecutor and judge have since helped to right that wrong by prosecuting and sentencing the guy to serve several additional years in prison for committing a federal gun crime in the course of that same shooting spree. Now that’s how it ought to work!
Before I headed to Arizona, I watched an absolutely surreal television news interview on the topic of fighting in professional hockey. Apparently those who run the National Hockey League (NHL) are trying to cut the traditional fist/stick-fighting side-shows out of the sport, primarily due to mounting evidence of long-term injuries to players (e.g. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, the cumulative effect of multiple minor-moderate concussive injuries over time — I’ve written about it here in the context of professional football). But here’s the bizarre part: In this interview that I saw, a hockey “expert” actually argued that fighting helps the sport and those who play it because it supposedly prevents the “cheap shots” that players take against one another when they’re prevented from blatantly fighting face-to-face. That’s gotta be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard on television in recent times. Want to prevent fighting — both blatant fighting and “cheap shots” — in hockey or any other sport? I’ll tell you how to prevent it: Charge the instigators criminally. Incidental physical contact is to be expected in sports like hockey and football, but nobody’s entitled to commit intentional misdemeanors or felonies just because he’s playing a game. It’d be better for the players (and among them, I’m far more concerned about the long-term mental health of the law-abiding ones than of the instigators), but more importantly, it’d be better for the kids who watch these sports (e.g. to learn that being good at pushing little disks around with sticks on ice skates doesn’t put a person above the law).
On a more positive note, props to a few impressive kids who’ve done the right and courageous things in tough situations over the past couple of weeks. A nine-year-old Colorado girl had the presence of mind to bail out of a kidnapper’s vehicle when the kidnapper got out to make a purchase at a convenience store. The little girl then ran around screaming to other adults in the vicinity that the kidnapper was a bad man who wasn’t her father (props also to the adult bystanders who then made sure that the girl got home safely and that the cops caught up with the kidnapper). Meanwhile, a Utah high school student who got wind that a couple of her peers were plotting a Columbine-style attack on their school reported what she had heard, enabling the cops to foil the plot before any innocent people could be hurt. I’ve written here in the past about students who were aware of things like horrendous bullying and didn’t say anything until after a victim had been severely hurt or had committed suicide. I can only hope that this Utah case is indicative of a trend among young people toward doing the right thing and speaking up in these kinds of situations.
And finally, remember the “Baby Lisa” case here in the Kansas City area — the case of the baby who “disappeared” in the middle of the night and whose parents appear to have been anything but fully honest and cooperative with law enforcement ever since? Well, the parents are scheduled to appear on the Dr. Phil show Friday afternoon. I don’t know if any real news will be made in that appearance, but when this case heats back up, and it will — remember that the Anthony case went relatively quiet for approximately six months before Caylee’s remains were found — I’ll be all over it for you from right here on the ground in Kansas, so stay tuned!